Rail Freight Up 5.3% in January

U.S. railroad freight traffic in January was up 5.3 percent compared to the same month in 2020.

Combined carload and intermodal originations were 2,103,523, or 106,749 carloads and intermodal units higher than last year.

Railroads originated 1,173,220 containers and trailers, increasing 12.1 percent, or 126,548 units, compared with January 2020.

They originated 930,303 carloads for the month, falling 2.1 percent, or 19,799 carloads, from January 2020.

 “We are encouraged by rail volumes in January,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray in a statement.

“U.S. intermodal shipments and carloads of chemicals set new records; grain had its biggest-ever year-over-year increase; total carloads were the highest they’ve been in a year; and carloads excluding coal actually grew year-over-year for the second straight month.”

Gray said the economy still faces uncertainty but he is cautiously optimistic about the future.

Ten of 20 carload groups posted gains in January 2021.

Grain accounted for an additional 31,434 carloads, a 40 percent increase. Gray said it was the largest increase on a year-over-year comparison.

Excluding coal, carloads increased on a year-over-year basis for the second month.

They were up by 15,557, or 2.3 percent, in January 2021 compared with January 2020.

Carloads excluding coal and grain, however, were down by 15,877, or 2.7 percent.

Also posting increases during January were chemicals, up 5,717 carloads or 4.4 percent; and metallic ores, up 5,190 carloads or 28.7 percent.

Commodities that fell included coal, down 35,356 carloads or 12.7 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, down 14,097 carloads or 18.9 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 6,529 carloads or 12.1 percent.

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